// Ghosts and Werewolves// Story: Twilight the Traveler// by ilbgar//——————————//
Maka and Soul had been bickering all week, and she was pretty sure it had to do with their training with Stein. She hoped he hadn’t done something stupid like intentionally screw with their relationship in order to make their bond stronger when they made up. That plan banked on the ‘making up’ part happening. Considering the fact that they were barely able to talk to each other for more than a minute without devolving into thinly veiled insults, she didn’t think this was working. She was worried about them getting hurt on their mission because their Wavelengths were off. Much like Blackstar was unable to lift Soul since their Wavelengths were out of synch during their fight with Kid, which they promptly lost due to that and their overall poor teamwork, if Maka couldn’t use Soul’s weapon form properly, then they’d be screwed.
“Come on, can’t you three row any faster?” Kid asked, standing on the prow of the ship in an outfit resembling his father’s appearance. No ship would come near the hunting grounds of this thing, so they’d needed to use a rented boat.
“Well maybe it’d go faster if you helped too, or maybe if we were using a motorboat, you know, with an engine? Those things people made so they wouldn’t have to do stuff like this!” Liz complained.
“Quit complaining.” Kid said as he took off the copy of his father’s mask, while Patty continued to sing ‘Row, row, row your boat’ as she’d been doing on-and-off ever since they’d started rowing.
“Hey, how much further?” Liz asked as the girls rowed. They’d been on this boat for hours.
“Not much. We’re already in the area where the people and chunks of towns have been disappearing, we just need to figure out what’s causing it.” Twilight answered, staring into the distance.
“We need to be careful, no normal Kishin Egg could cause the kind of damage in the reports.” Kid warned. The reports noted that it was like something had eaten large chunks of the towns on several islands. She was aware of the danger, but she was distracted by the problems Maka and Soul were having. Her group wasn’t even in much danger at the moment, but she had no idea what was going on with the others. “I think we’re going to have a first-hand look momentarily.” Kid said, staring at the island they were passing.
*** Meanwhile, In London ***
“Hyahoo! The Great Blackstar, in London!” Blackstar yelled to no one. Their mission had taken them to the English capital. Much like Twilight was accompanying Kid and his team, the two teams of their group of friends who were more normal (in comparison to Death’s son and the world-hopper) had been sent on the same mission. Ever since the disaster during Maka and Soul’s mission in Italy, no teams went on missions without backup.
“Aren’t you cold Blackstar?” Tsubaki, who’d traded her usual yellow dress for a pale gray coat asked as the snow continued to fall.
“Nah. It’d have to be way colder than this to even bother me. Normal people get frostbite when I start getting chilly!” Blackstar proclaimed, to a sigh of exasperation from Tsubaki. “This whole thing about having to have backup bugs me though. Ever since Soul got hurt, we can’t go on missions alone anymore.” Blackstar jerked a somewhat-accusing finger at Maka and Soul. “You guys better not slow me down.” he finished.
The pair merely grunted and continued to avoid speaking to each other while glaring in opposite directions. Tsubaki walked over to try and defuse the situation. They were getting worse. “Hey you two, look at how beautiful this place is at night. Yay London!” Tsubaki tried and failed to get them to stop giving each other the silent treatment.
As Maka and Soul almost completely ignored each other and Tsubaki, Blackstar muttered “Man, they really are getting worse.” under his breath with a frown. “Anyway Maka,” he continued in a louder voice “I can’t see souls, so this one’s up to you.” he said. Even if she didn’t find anything, a momentary distraction from their feud might help.
“Alright, I’m focusing in on any souls nearby.” Maka said as she folded her hands together and closed her eyes while she concentrated. She discovered a soul sitting on one of the towers of the bridge they were currently investigating. There’d been reports of a figure that had appeared on this bridge and begun terrorizing people who came across at night. The squad of policemen who’d been investigating had been ambushed and brutally beaten, though their attacker seemed to have been careful to avoid outright killing them. This had led to a call for someone from the DWMA to investigate.
“There’s one up there on the tower opposite us.” Maka said, pointing at what was on closer inspection a figure on the tower. She stiffened when he seemed to notice her pointing at him when it ought to be difficult to determine anything specific about a person from this distance. He gave off the clear impression of a grin as he jumped down, landing hard enough to form a crater.
“What’s with this dude?” Blackstar asked. This was definitely not a normal guy, but he couldn’t see the guy’s soul, so he couldn’t really tell beyond an instinctual knowledge that this guy wasn’t a human.
“I’m not sure. I don’t think he’s a Kishin Egg though. His soul is green, but there’s a bunch of stuff mixed together. He looks about as strong as Stein, maybe a little lower, but there’s human and Witch in there, and something else I’ve never seen before.” Maka answered.
The grin on the man’s face widened as he neared them. “I knew somebody from the DWMA’d show up if I caused enough trouble. Had to be careful not to rate a 2 or 3 star, but that wasn’t so hard. It was a bit of a stroke of luck you showed up so soon though.” he said cryptically. That implied he’d been trying to draw them out for some reason.
Blackstar grinned. “This guy wants a fight. I say we give him one.” Blackstar said. The guy had basically confessed to being the troublemaker, so they didn’t really have any reason to try and talk him down.
“Be careful, the Witch portion of his soul probably lets him use magic.” Maka warned.
“Alright, Tsubaki, let’s go. Enchanted Sword Mode. I wanna take him down fast.” he ordered.
“But you still can’t use that for more than 10 seconds, even when you’re not fighting.” Tsubaki objected.
“I only need to last a few seconds so I can take him out. Even without being able to see souls, I can tell this guy’s really strong.” Blackstar countered.
“Alright.” Tsuabki glowed white as she transformed into a black katanna, which Blackstar caught in one hand.
The man’s grin turned into an analytical expression. “Hm, this one’s strong. I’m a little impressed.” he muttered.
“Let’s go Soul Resonance!” Blackstar shouted, causing Tsubaki’s weapon form to spark with black electricity, and cut-like tattoos to appear on Blackstar’s face.
“Amazing. Their resonance is still stable when they’ve pushed it this far, and his soul…” Maka trailed off. Blackstar’s soul had expanded to the point it was roughly the same size as their target’s. It also had Japanese characters etched on it that weren’t there before.
“London bridge is falling down dude!” Blackstar shouted as he charged at the man. Normally he didn’t go for a straight-up charge even when he wasn’t taking the fight seriously, but he didn’t have a lot of time before using the Demon Sword form overwhelmed him.
“Wolf wolves… wolf wolves… Ice Cone!” the man chanted as he slowly moved into an odd position that almost looked like bastardized meditation. This resulted in a spike of ice rising from the ground in front of Blackstar.
“Tsubaki!” Blackstar called.
“Got it!” she said as their shadow grabbed onto the spike and held it down.
“Wait, what? Did they do that with their shadow?” the man asked. That could be troublesome.
“Wow, he’s really improved.” Maka said, slightly awed. Blackstar immediately collapsed when he tried to use that mode the first time, but now he could actually use it in a fight.
“How about a taste of my new technique! Shadow Star! …Star! Star. star.” he said weakly as he collapsed from the strain of using the Weapon form.
“Blackstar! I told you it was too much for you.” Tsubaki said as she shifted back to human.
“He didn’t even last 10 seconds.” Soul noted. “Wait a minute.” an expression of consternation crossed his face. “Why didn’t you use the EP?” Soul asked.
“Huh, guess I forgot.” Blackstar wheezed while Tsubaki watched their target like a hawk in case he tried to take advantage of Blackstar’s weakness.
“He might be strong, but Blackstar’s also a crazy idiot.” Maka deadpanned.
“Huh, that happened.” the man commented, turning away from the ninja duo in disinterest. They weren’t his targets anyway, and he didn’t think a temporary doubling of one’s fighting abilities would’ve helped them much, the kid would just have ended up drained twice as fast. He’d prioritized getting his body back to it’s peak in the last week anyway. “Who’s next?” he asked.
His answer came in the form of a scythe blade straight through his liver and one of his lungs. A wound that would be fatal against almost anyone. “You shouldn’t let your guard down like that mister.” Soul advised, one arm transformed.
“He did it! Wait, no…” Maka’s eyes widened when she realized that this guy wasn’t being more than inconvenienced by the wound he’d been dealt. “Soul, get out of there!” she yelled.
“Heh, that happens sometimes. Of course, I’m the kind of guy who can afford to get stabbed in the vital organs a few times.” the man grinned.
Not liking that grin at all, Soul backed off to Maka’s position, the girl in question having moved a lot closer than the group started out. “What’s with this guy?” Soul asked.
“Look, his wound’s closing!” Maka pointed out. Indeed, the hole Soul had made was visibly healing, letting off steam as it did.
“Yeah, that’s a major bonus to being an immortal, fast healing.” the man said with a smirk.
“Wait, an Immortal?” Tsubaki asked. The Immortal Clan was wiped out a long time ago after it started attacking humans. There were rumors of survivors, but most of them had been stamped out. Contrary to the name, Immortals were not actually immortal. They merely possessed powerful healing abilities even in their human forms and did not die of old age. Their werewolf forms healed even faster and were significantly stronger and more durable, making them a lot harder to hurt in the first place. Being beheaded or total physical destruction were the only known ways to kill them every time.
“Maybe seeing what I really look like would help.” the man said, before screaming involuntarily as green lightning crackled around him and a painful-looking transformation began. His body began to shift and take on a more lupine appearance. He sprouted black fur and a tail as his hands and face became covered by a finer layer of gray fur, grew claws, and his face became a muzzle. The changes to his soul were even more drastic if anything.
Maka couldn’t help but ask “What’s happening to his soul?” as the green orb roughly tripled in size, and grew three spikes on the top. The arcane-looking circle on the side where the unusual eye and ‘No Future’ tattoo were remained unchanged, likely because the former was not native to this being’s body. “I know who we’re dealing with now. this guy’s a legend even by Immortal standards. The legendary Wolf-man who stole the Grand Witch’s eye.” Maka said. To put that into perspective, it would be like someone tearing off Lord Death’s arm and living to tell about it.
“Shit, this is bad.” Soul said grimly, before pulling out his EP from it’s resting place in his pocket. Maka did the same and they quickly took their respective pills.
“Now Soul, time to transform!” Maka said as soon as they’d both swallowed their pills.
“Yeah.” Soul agreed without complaint, shining blue as he jumped upward and shifted into his scythe form, which Maka caught deftly. They’d practiced using their abilities while under the EP’s effects, though this was the first time they’d done so together since their fight had begun. However, there was a slight problem, as Maka settled into her usual stance and said “Let’s take him down Soul!” Soul’s form solidified, which was quickly followed by Maka dropping him.
“Hey, what the hell Maka?!” Soul saked, then noticed that her gloves were blackened, almost charred.
“I can’t hold on to you, your handle’s too hot.” she explained, staring almost dumbly at her gloves as if her hands had betrayed her. They’d never had problems like this before.
“What?” Soul asked disbelievingly.
‘It’s just like that time Blackstar tried to wield Soul when they fought Kid. Blackstar couldn’t lift Soul because their Wavelengths weren’t in synch. It’s not as bad this time, but I don’t think Maka and Soul’s Wavelengths are in synch.’ Tsubaki thought.
Meanwhile, a rather unusual frog sat on the railings on one side of the bridge. A black snake outlined with purple lurked inside it, transmitting what the frog saw to it’s mistress. “Hm, I was right, their Wavelengths are out-of-synch. With all that Black Blood inside you… how do you plan to get out of this one?” Medusa asked as she stared into a crystal ball she kept in her lair. “If you aren’t careful you and your Meister are going to pay the price for your reluctance to use it’s power.” she grinned maliciously. “And so the experiment begins.”
‘Why is this happening? It’s so hard to breathe. How do I do that again? If just inhaling and exhaling is hard, I must be doing something wrong. Then how am I supposed to use my weapon? I can’t even breathe right.’ Maka thought, breathing heavily.
“Flying Wolf Fist!” The wolf-man reared a fist back then shot his whole body forward at Maka. “Let’s go!” Maka managed to bring her arms halfway into a block before she got smashed into by the wolf-man’s entire body’s weight.
“Maka!” Soul cried out as he reverted to human form.
“Ice Cylinder!” the wolf-man said, gesturing with a hand to raise a pillar of ice behind Maka, which she crashed into. She barely recovered in time to duck underneath his follow-up blow, which shattered the pillar into head-sized chunks, several of which smashed into Soul.
“Soul!” Maka cried out in concern, a moment before the wolf-man kicked her off the bridge. She grabbed one of the metal rods placed on either side, and used it to swing herself back onto the bridge, just in time for green lightning to begin crackling around him again.
He opened his mouth, causing a cartoonish version of an eye to appear, and a white light began to shine in the center of it, but just before it fired, a stalagmite of ice skewered him, causing him to break off the attack.
“Crap! I really am rusty from spending so long in that dungeon! I was always careful not to put those where they’d skewer me.” he said, before ripping the ice out of his body and letting the wound heal. “I’ll have to practice later, but it’s okay for now. After all, I’m Immortal.” he said as the steaming wound closed. Maka and Soul stared, well-aware that even with the EP, it was very possible that he’d have killed one of them with that attack considering how strong the attacks without any buildup were. Their opponent’s clumsiness from about 200 years of inactivity was all that had saved them.
“For an immortal magic werewolf he’s sure clumsy. Then again, if I spent 200 years in prison I’d probably have some control issues too.” Eruka commented quietly.
“Alright, that’s going to be a nuisance until this fight’s over, but nothing I can’t handle. Maybe fighting without my edge in magic will help me get it back too.” the wolf-man said, rubbing the spot the giant hole he’d accidentally put in himself had been. He’d done a little training to get his body back in shape, but he hadn’t used much magic at all since escaping imprisonment.
“Maka!” Tsubaki called, prompting the other girl to turn her head to the weapon. “We have to do something! If you can’t fight with Soul, try using me!” she half-ordered, half-suggested.
“It won’t work.” Maka denied. “I don’t have any training using your weapon forms, and even if could figure out how to use you in time, I’d be at too much of a disadvantage to beat him.” she shot the idea down.
“You Meisters… you think just because the ‘Great Lord Death’ says so, people are good or evil. He judges everyone by his rules and standards, and then decides whether they get to live or die.” the wolf-man said contemptuously.
“What are you talking about?” Soul asked incredulously. The guy trying to kill them was trying to lecture them on morality?
“You all follow your master so blindly, never questioning whether he’s right. What makes him the perfect choice to decide how the world should be?” the wolf-man began walking towards them. “He trains you to hunt down those he deems unworthy and take their souls. I wouldn’t be safe in a world like that, so I decided to hell with that future! I refuse!” he blurred over to Maka, who barely dodged his punch, which shattered the concrete beneath where her feet had been a second before. “I say it’s my turn to be the judge!” the wolf-man pulled back both arms, forming a giant sphere of ice in them, with the ball-chain partially encased in it. “I won’t play by some wannabe god’s rules any more!” he said, throwing the giant ball of ice at Maka, who tried to dodge, but was hit anyway as the wolf-man used the chain the ice was partially encasing to swing it into her anyway.
“Maka!” Soul said, seriously worried at the punishment she was taking as she flopped onto her back then tumbled onto her face from the force of getting smashed into by a wrecking ball of ice.
“Soul, turn back into a scythe.” Maka ordered, turning her head to look at him, a small trail of blood leaking from her mouth towards her chin.
“Wait, you couldn’t even hold on to me before.” Soul objected.
“It’s our only chance! Just do it!” she argued.
Soul was quiet for a moment, then nodded before repeating his earlier transformation. ‘Using a weapon when your Wavelengths aren’t in-synch is incredibly hard on the body, mind and soul, but she doesn’t have a choice right now. She’s a scythe Meister, and he’s her weapon.’ Tsubaki thought.
“Maka your hands…” Soul said, seeing the steam coming from them as she gripped his handle.
‘I’m going to become…’she thought, gritting her teeth. ‘…stronger!’ she charged at him, then stabbed him in the gut with the blade of Soul’s scythe. “Take this!” she shouted.
“Really?” he smashed a fist into her face, sending her skidding back. “That didn’t work for your friend, what made you think it’d work now?” the wolf-man asked.
“How’s this?!” she charged him again, only to get punched into the railing. “Damn…” she struggled upright again.
“What are you doing? You need to have a plan! Calm down, take a breath.” Soul said.
“Stay out of it! I’m doing this my way. I refuse to let him beat me!” Maka snapped.
“Don’t be an idiot! If shouting like a spoiled-brat made you stronger, everyone would do it!” Soul shot back.
“Shut up! That attitude is why our Wavelengths are out-of-synch in the first place! That’s not cool Soul, it isn’t cool at all!” Maka argued.
Soul’s eyes widened as he was eerily reminded of the little demon by the way Maka was acting. “Gain power… I can show you how if you need.” it said in the back of his mind.
“Shut your mouth Maka! What do you know anyway?” he shouted, as Tsubaki’s hands started to tremble and clench into fists.
“That is enough you two!” Tsubaki yelled forcefully. The sheer oddity of Tsubaki being forceful was enough to grind the argument to a halt. “You two are a team. You need to work together if you want to do anything. One person can’t decided anything without the other. You decided together, you work together, and you fight together.” she reprimanded them.
“Oh yeah, because Blackstar asks your permission every time he goes off to do something stupid!” Soul countered sarcastically.
“I’ll admit, Blackstar makes some dumb calls from time to time, but it’s my job to back him up no matter how dumb he acts. If we’re fools, we’re fools together, that’s the kind of team we are.” Tsubaki reminded them.
‘I’ve been focused on getting stronger ever since the Demon Sword hurt Soul like that, but there’s no reason to do it alone. Maybe Tsubaki’s right, I was so focused on catching up to Soul, I’ve been pushing him away.’ Maka thought, a small wind kicking up as her soul became briefly visible, small winglike appendages sprouting behind it. ‘No matter how hot it gets, I won’t let go.’ she gripped Soul’s handle tighter even as his handle cooled.
“I don’t get what you were so worried about. I’m not even all that strong. If you’re done telling me what to do, maybe we can work together now.” Soul responded to Maka’s thoughts, as weapon’s had been known to do. Soul appeared in his mind/soulscape, dressed in a suit, a few feet behind the demon. “Hey, demon-guy.” he said, succeeding in getting the demon’s attention. “You can lead me wherever you want. Let’s see your plan, and we’ll see if I follow it.” he said calmly.
“In that case, right this way.” the demon gestured Soul to follow him. “Overwhelming madness and power are waiting.” he warned.
Soul grinned. “Sure, let’s go.”
Meanwhile, in reality, Maka and Soul said “Let’s go, Soul Resonance!”
“Hm, took them long enough.” the wolf-man muttered. He’d had explicit orders from Medusa to give them a chance to work out their issues. He made a point of avoiding messing with people’s personal issues, so he was willing to follow that order. It would be different if they were strategizing how to beat him though.
The vestiges of a small tornado surrounded the scythe and his Meister, as they glowed a silver-blue color. “Wow, their resonance rate is incredibly high.” Tsubaki said, shielding her face with one arm.
“Excellent, the Black Blood is doing it’s work.” Medusa noted gleefully.
Maka suddenly felt a crushing pressure. ‘Something’s wrong. Is Soul devouring me?’ Unbeknownst to her, this was due to the influence of the Black Blood. To an outside observer with Soul Perception, it would look like that was indeed what was happening.
“This should be interesting. A Demon Weapon with Black Blood has the power to devour their Meister’s soul. Let’s see how high you can raise your resonance rate before that happens with or without your support Soul Eater.” Medusa grinned.
“Dammit, it feels like my sanity’s being ripped away! But…” he grabbed on the side of his mouth and pulled from inside the dark plane he entered every time he became his weapon form. “I won’t let it!”
“The legendary Superskill of the Scythe Meister! Witch Hunter!” Maka said as Soul took on a crescent-moon shape a with a toothy mouth formed of white energy. The red eye normally found where the blade met the handle had grown and moved to the center of the blade.
“Fancy technique! Fine, then I’ll bring out one of mine. Wolf, wolves, wolf, wolves, Wolf-tail Wall!” he said, the spell causing his tail to grow into a sort of tower shield.
“We can break through that!” Maka shouted as they came down on the wall, swinging. They stayed deadlocked for a few seconds, then she smashed her head into Soul to try and drive him deeper through the wall. ‘It doesn’t hurt, it’s not hot, I’m not scared! I will not be beaten! I won’t ever let Soul get hurt like that again!’ Maka thought, before pulling her head back for another try. “I’m going to get stronger!” she shouted, smashing her head into Soul’s handle and finally piercing the tail-shield. “Figure-6 Hunter!” she shouted as she slashed most of the wolf-man’s tail off and dealt a cut to his chest that started to bleed, unlike almost every other wound he’d been dealt.
“Gah! How in the hell?!” the wolf-man cried out in pain. How did she do that?
“Did we get him?” Soul asked.
“Not quite.” Maka said, before throwing Soul aside and pushing the wolf-man off the bridge.
“What the- A Meister abandoning her weapon and attacking herself?!” the wolf-man asked disbelievingly.
“Maka!” Tsubaki cried out fearfully as the girl and the wolf began to fall.
“Down you go!” Maka yelled in his face before kicking off him and grabbing the edge of the bridge, forcing the wolf-man down even faster. Unfortunately, the snow on the ground began to melt from her body heat and she started to lose her grip. Just as she was about to fall off, Soul grabbed her by the wrist.
“Well, your wrists aren’t fat at least.” he joked, starting to lift her back up.
“Soul!” Maka sighed gratefully, then gasped in pain as a trio of claws shot into her stomach-area.
“Not so fast! I’m not falling off this bridge by myself. I’ll be taking somebody with me, and it might as well be you!” the wolf-man had extended his claws and was using Maka to keep himself from falling.
‘Dammit!’ Soul thought as he struggled and slowly lost the battle to keep this much weight from pulling him off the bridge. ‘There’s no way I’m letting Maka go!’
Just as Soul was about to lose his grip, a blade cut the wolf-man’s hand off, and without anything to keep gravity from claiming him, he started falling again. “Man, that was close.” a panting Blackstar said as Tsubaki started whirling back towards him. “It’s a good thing I’m here to look out for you two.” he added, catching Tsubaki with one hand.
“This isn’t over!” the wolf-man shouted as his hand started to heal. “Wolf, wolves, wolf, wolves!” he chanted. ‘I’ll just take a page out of that girl’s book and kick off an ice cylinder. All I have to do is make one right underneath me. I’m not even winded yet, and they’re all exhausted. Once I get back up there, they’re toast!’ he thought with a smirk. “Ice Cylinder!” he shouted, only to be encased in his own ice. ‘Oh. Right. Still falling. Need to work on my precision.’ he thought as he landed in the river with a splash. ‘Geez,” he thought as he sank. ‘I start a fight after 200 years rotting in a cell, and I screw it up. I really need some practice before I try something like this again.’ he thought. He’d have to wait until the ice thawed a bit before he could break out. That might take a while considering how cold it was around here.
“That was quite the screw-up, even for him.” Eruka muttered.
“I’ve seen enough to convince me, the Black Blood research should let me create a Kishin, though a second trial never hurts…” Medusa thought with a smile.
“Are you sure you’re alright?” Soul asked once they’d gotten their breath back.
“I’m fine, thanks.” Maka nodded.
“From the way your hands look, I guess I’ll be doing the cooking for a while.” he half-joked with a grin.
Maka smiled back. “That should be fun to watch.” she responded. Soul got up and started to walk towards the other team. Maka was about to do the same, when she coughed harshly, leaving some blood on her gloves. She started at the color ‘Black… Blood…?’ she wondered. She decided to ask the school nurse about it when she got back.
“So, how are you holding up Blackstar?” Soul asked as the two of them approached the ninja duo.
“I’m doing great, but I’m gonna need to do some serious training if I want to use Enchanted Sword Mode in a fight.” Blackstar said with crossed arms.
“I think we all did very well under the circumstances.” Tsubaki said happily. They’d beaten the wolf-man, and Maka and Soul weren’t fighting anymore.
“Let’s report to Lord Death, then rent a hotel for the night.” Maka said.
“Fine with me, I’m ready to hit the hay.” Soul said with a yawn.
*** Meanwhile, With Liz, Patty, Kid, and Twilight ***
“What do you mean? It looks like a nice, normal little town.” Liz asked
“I’m not sure if normal applies here.” Twilight noted with narrowed eyes as they rounded a bend, to see what at first appeared to be a wall, but revealed itself to be a number of colossal bite marks. She couldn’t detect any souls. Admittedly, the town was still far enough away she wouldn’t notice any singular souls that weren’t strong enough to serve as decent Meisters, but she should be able to tell if there was a large group around.
“What the heck happened here?!” Liz yelled.
“The people who lived here were swallowed by something.” Kid answered.
“Plus their homes, please tell me we won’t have to fight something that big.” Liz said fearfully, a nervous sweat breaking out on her head.
“We’ll need to gather information on what we’ll be facing. Let’s see what the villagers know.” Kid said as they turned the boat towards the pier.
A few minutes later, after splitting up to look for survivors, Kid and his weapons found someone cowering in their house, wearing a brown cloak, while Twilight talked to the only other survivor they’d found. The Kishin Egg probably didn’t consider them worth the effort, which said worrying things about it’s abilities. Most Kishin Eggs were either weak enough that your average soul would be a decent contribution to their power, or lacked the higher reasoning abilities to decide that prey that couldn’t fight back wasn’t worth the effort it would take to get it. This one was both strong enough that it had the leisure to ignore human souls ready for the taking, and clear-headed enough to do so.
“Can you tell me what happened here?” Kid asked.
“It w-was the mist.” the man stuttered.
“Mist? Interesting. What do you mean? What kind of Mist?” Kid asked.
“N-no.” the villager muttered in terror, clearly not all there anymore.
“Calm down. No one’s going to hurt you. We’ve come from the DWMA to put a stop to the being responsible for this.” Kid said.
“From- From the Academy?” the villager asked.
“Yes, so I need you to tell me in as much detail as you can what happened here.” Kid said calmly.
“Black Dragon.” the villager said quietly, prompting a slight intake of breath from the fledgling Reaper. “The Black Dragon came and ate our village!” he screamed.
“Black Dragon? Hm, that’s going to help us a lot, thank you.” Kid said. It was unlikely they’d get anything else out of this villager. He was too shell-shocked to be of much more help. He’d let the authorities know to come and pick up the survivor later. He wouldn’t last long out here alone.
“I heard the other villager call it ‘The Black Dragon’ too, so it’s not just something this guy decided to call it. This Kishin Egg’s built itself quite the reputation in the area.” Twilight said as the group met up again. This looked bad. Even if it was a special ability specific to this Kishin Egg, being able to control the weather would require a lot of power, especially to sustain it over a whole town. This was looking to be a tough fight. Of course, the coastal attacks suggested something that could swim or at least float, which might let them win simply by doing enough damage that it couldn’t stay above the waterline anymore.
“I’d like to look for clues about previous attacks in the library. There aren’t any more witnesses, so if we’re going to find anything else to tell us what we’re up against, it’ll be there.” Kid said.
“I guess that makes sense.” Liz agreed.
“I’ll take the history section, you guys look for any books someone was looking through when the attack happened, someone might have been looking for weaknesses or something along those lines if they had some warning.” Twilight said.
A couple hours later, the Brooklyn natives were looking at picture books. Well, Patty was and she’d roped Liz into playing along. After a couple minutes of this, Liz asked Kid “Are we done here Kid? This place is cramped, and musty, and I think it’s actually colder in here than outside.”
“Don’t be lazy, preliminary research into one’s target is necessary… is what i’d say if I didn’t hate this place too.” he closed the book he’d been reading. “I think I’ve got enough basic information, let’s find Twilight and then leave.”
“Good, so where are we going next?” she asked as Patty peeked around the bookcase, pretending to be a monkey.
“I’ll tell you later.” Kid said as he headed for the history section.
Upon finding Twilight, they noticed a small pile of books at her feet. “Oh, did you find anything?” Kid asked.
“Yes, well, maybe. I’ve been looking at shipping records in hopes of finding something that’s been preying on ships in the area or something along those lines, but I haven’t found much, though I’ve learned the names of a number of ships that have sunk in the area. Though there was something interesting. There were reports of a ship that preyed on other ships after having sunk itself. A ghost-ship named Nidhogg, which also happens to be the name of a black dragon that appears in Norse mythology. I doubt it’s a coincidence, but I imagine that the ship’s a bit newer than the Vikings, or else we’d have heard about it by now. Probably a Kishinized sailor possessing his ship or something.” Twilight surmised.
“I came to a similar conclusion. After all, just because a ship’s sunk doesn’t mean that it’s going to stay sunk.” Kid agreed. “The people of this island believed that there was a ghost-ship preying on other ships. As this part of the Baltic Sea sees a lot of shipping under most circumstances, it would be prime hunting ground for a sea-going Kishin Egg. Of course, it’s possible that this thing has been around for some time and merely grown bolder and/or greedier more recently. It could mask its presence by the simple fact that an area with more shipping will have more shipwrecks by simple virtue of statistics, so if it were careful it could be decades before someone realized something was wrong. Of course, if this thing were absorbing entire ships full of people for a long time, then I suspect it would be a Kishin by now, so I have to assume it’s holding off for some reason or is relatively new.” Kid said.
“I don’t like where this is going.” Liz commented.
“If I had to guess, it’s either a Kishin-worshipper planning to offer those souls up, or some kind of ghost possessing a ship that can’t actually absorb the souls themselves.” Twilight offered.
“Ghost?! What do you mean ghost!?” Liz cried out in terror.
“Oh right, you’re scared of ghosts. Relax, there’s no guarantee ghosts will even be involved.” Kid attempted to calm down.
“I’m not hearing a ‘ghosts don’t exist’!” Liz said continuing to freak out.
“We deal with souls outside their bodies all the time, ghosts aren’t much of a stretch.” Twilight noted.
“I’m not going to lie just to give you temporary relief.” Kid responded. “Permanent relief, sure. Temporary, no.”
“Let’s just get her on the boat, aggravation at having to row more should calm her down.” Twilight said with a sigh as Liz continued to panic.
10 minutes later, Twilight was proven right as Liz went back to complaining. “Why are back in this stupid rowboat?! Whatever we’re doing out here better be real important Kid!” Liz yelled in exasperation.
“Of course. Would I make you row all this way for no reason?” Kid asked.
“Knowing you, maybe.” Liz answered him.
“Well, let us answer your question with another question. Where exactly would one expect to find a boat?” Twilight said, gesturing expansively at the sea around them as fog began to roll in.
“What’s with the creepy fog?” Liz asked nervously.
“A cloud!” Patty chirped happily. She was right too. Fog was really just a low-altitude cloud.
“It seems that we’re getting close. Stay sharp.” Kid said.
“Wait, what?” Liz asked.
“My Soul Perception ignores things like this mist, and it’s telling me there’s a lot of souls on the portside.” Twilight confirmed Kid’s impression.
“What does that mean?” Liz asked, increasingly nervous.
“Normally my Shinigami powers merely inform me of the number and general placement of souls nearby unless I deliberately focus them. That’s usually not much help since I tend to operate in areas like cities, but in this case there aren’t a lot of humans in the area, which means this is probably our culprit, as I doubt a civilian vessel is hoarding several thousand human souls.” Kid said as a dark shape loomed in the mist, before revealing itself to be a corruption of a normal wooden ship. It had what looked like enormous human eyes set in the front, near a vertical mouth with wooden boards for teeth.
“What in hell is that?!” Liz asked in a mix of terror and horror.
“You see that writing near the stern?” Kid asked.
“Nid.. uh.. hog?” Patty asked, the gloom making it difficult to read.
“It’s Nidhogg, pronounced need-hog, and it’s what Twilight was talking about earlier. Looking at it I can see why the villagers believed such a legend. Right,” he pointed a finger at the ship. “we’re heading up there! Let’s go ladies!” he said authoritatively.
“Uh uh, no way! That’s a ghost ship, which means it’s full of ghosts! Which means I’m not going anywhere near it!” Liz objected loudly.
Patty and Twilight were rowing meanwhile. Twilight with about as much complaint as before, which was to say none at all, and Patty with more gusto than usual. “Let’s go! Let’s go! Move it!” she shouted rowing furiously. Noticing the speed they were headed towards the other ship, Twilight had begun rowing to counter Patty, though it didn’t seem to be helping much.
“Wait, wait! Patty Wait!” Kid yelled frantically, gripping the small wooden point at the front of their boat like his life depended on it as the psychotically grinning girl continued to row. He smashed into the larger boat and leaving a trail of blood as he slumped over. “You idiot, I told you to wait didn’t I?” Kid asked, his voice muffled by the wooden hull.
Patty giggled. “Whoopsie, sorry.” she said with a psychotic smirk on her face. Twilight worried about the mental stability of the company she kept sometimes.
“If you want to damage the other ship you have to ram them in the middle!” Kid reprimanded her.
“You’re mad because she didn’t aim for the center?” Liz asked from where she was lying on the boat’s floor.
“Pretty sure that’s not the issue here.” Twilight said as she healed the collection of scrapes and bruises she’d received, shortly followed by Kid’s nose.
“Now do it again!” Kid said, pointing to a different spot on the larger ship.
“Okay!” Patty agreed.
“Wait, what?” Liz and Twilight said at the same time.
“Row!” Patty yelled gleefully as she pulled the ship back, rowed towards the spot Kid had indicated and built up speed. Twilight resigned herself to their current course of action, and simply cast Protect on everyone. What followed was pretty much the same as their first ramming, though the trail of blood Kid left behind was smaller.
“Okay, let’s board.” Kid said, muffled by the ship again.
“You two are insane!” Patty declared blearily from the bottom of the boat.
“Or you just have a death wish.” Twilight said with a deadpan inflection, healing everyone’s injuries again.
“No, it’s worse than that! You’re crazy insane jerks with death wishes!” Liz complained, not noticing Twilight teleporting everyone onboard by using the the locations of the souls to fill out the rough dimensions of the ship, filling in the blanks of what she couldn’t see. Liz immediately started freaking out when she realized what had happened.
“It seems the souls are all being kept inside the ship somewhere. In we go.” Kid said.
“KAY!” Patty said, not particularly exuberant for once.
“I’m pretty sure they’re all just floating around in there. I don’t think this guy much cares about someone sneaking in.” Twilight said, studiously ignoring the skeletons tied up around the mast who seemed to be dressed as tourists. That suggested that this ship was either commandeered by it’s current captain, or that someone had been lucky (or unlucky) enough to survive getting this close before the four of them, though it seemed the ship’s captain had taken exception to the trespassers if that was the case.
“Hey, guys, I have a better idea, how about we stay out here where there aren’t any ghosts? Besides, it’s a lot harder to ambush us out her in the open, right?” Liz rationalized. Twilight had to admit she had a point there.
“Sorry, Liz but we need to find and secure the souls or else our target might decide to eat them himself to ensure his survival.” Twilight said as she followed Kid. Even if he was nothing special now that they were on the ship with him (which she doubted) the power boost he’d get from eating hundreds of souls would make the fight a lot harder.
“Aw man, I hate this place already.” Liz said, walking jerkily due to her nerves. She and Twilight turned back a few seconds later, the former because she thought she heard something, the latter because she thought she sensed something bloodthirsty behind her, but there was nothing there when they looked.
“Come on you two.” Kid called. The girls glanced at each other, then made their way inside the ship, a bit more wary now. As they went inside, a head rose from the deck, which rippled as if it were water.
The Kishin Egg wore a flat-topped hat and had a permanent insane grin on it’s face. He chuckled evilly. “What do you know? A fresh quartet of souls made their way to me all on their own, and these are some strong ones.” His smiled widened very slightly. “Lord Kishin will be pleased if I get him some strong souls. Quality trumps quantity after all.” he sank back into the ship’s hull, planning to ambush his new… guests.
A few minutes of walking, with Liz hiding behind Patty and in front of Twilight, led them to a door. Kid’s Shinigami powers and Twilight’s Soul Perception allowed them to pinpoint the location with the highest concentration of souls, though it seemed that they were mostly just sealed off from open-air, as if the Kishin Egg were afraid they’d escape. They were stored at least a floor below the ship’s deck, and there was likely a pretty solid door between them and any routes to the surface, but they went all the way down to the bottom of the ship. Several thousand souls would give even a normal human a pretty good start on becoming a new Kishin, and there were at least 3000 here.
Kid opened the door, and they found at least a hundred souls floating around in this first room alone. Even if there was no blood on the walls or anything, Twilight felt disgusted at the number of people that this thing must have killed in hopes of satisfying it’s ‘master’ or hunger. “No normal Kishin Egg would be able to gather this many souls and resist the temptation to devour them, so it can’t be planning anything good with them. If I had to make a theory, I’d say something along the lines of that Kishin-worshiper idea you had earlier is most likely. Though some kind of gluttonous Kishin that wants to feast on as many souls as possible at once isn’t impossible.” he said before entering the room and heading towards the center. The souls seemed to twitch in reaction to his presence.
“So, can we have these souls since they don’t belong to anybody?” Patty asked innocently.
“NO! Do you want to end up a Kishin Egg?!” Twilight emphatically denied.
“She’s right. Anyway, I need to safeguard these souls, regardless of their captor’s intentions.” Kid said, reaching the center of the room and making an odd sign with his fingers. It appeared he was about to put the souls to rest, that, or send them to his father. He was interrupted by a figure pulling itself out of the wooden floor as if it weren’t a solid obstacle, and sticking a large gun barrel in his face.
The Kishin Egg was bending his head back just a little too far for a human skeleton to be able to accommodate, and wearing a sweater vest with a red collar over a white shirt. He had tan trousers and a mop of orange hair, an almost literal mop because that was honestly what it looked like. “What have we here? I was sure you were a strong soul, but a Grim Reaper? I must have gone a little overboard with the gathering.” he commented while firing the gun several times as Kid dodged. He sank back into the floorboards as Twilight returned fire.
“Okay, we found him. Now what do-” Twilight was interrupted by the Kishin Egg rearing up and shouting “NIDHOGG!” Then the floorboards caved in beneath her. “Ah son of a-” she began in exasperation before falling about a story, the hole sealing behind her. She attempted to teleport back up, but ended up upside down on the ceiling of the level she was on before falling again. “Note to self,” she said through gritted teeth as she healed the broken hand she’d gotten from landing on said hand. She was careful to set it in it’s proper position first, but that was merely a precaution and the healing spell healed the bone just fine. “do not try to teleport through walls when they are connected to something’s soul.”
Kid, Liz, and Patty were having their own problems. Kid had Liz and Patty transform into their weapon forms as soon as Twilight fell… or he would have if it weren’t for one thing. Their opponent did the same thing to Liz that he’d done to Twilight. Liz, predictably, screamed as she fell into darkness.
“Liz, no!” Kid yelled worriedly. Twilight was a friend, but had more experience with direct combat, as well as healing and protection abilities. Demon Weapons were somewhat tougher than normal humans even in human form, but Liz would be in deep trouble were she unlucky enough to injure herself while landing. Besides which, Liz was one of his weapon partners so if push came to shove he would prioritize her unless he knew she was fine, and he himself was at a distinct disadvantage with Liz out of the picture.
Patty, on the other hand, laughed and said “She fell! She fell!” in a childlike manner while slapping the boards where her sister fell.
“She’s your sister! How can you laugh at a time like this?!” Kid scolded her, before the two of them paused as their opponent began to chuckle.
“This ship is my body and my body is the ship. I can control it like one of my limbs.” he grinned with dark humor. “All I have to do is outlast you. I seriously doubt you can damage the ship badly enough to permanently hurt me, and don’t bother looking for explosives to try it that way. I make a point of not keeping much of that sort of thing around. You can cut me to pieces or punch more holes in me than Swiss cheese, but I’ll keep coming back together as long as the ship is intact.” his smile widened beyond the point of sanity. “I don’t think you have the same luxury.” he aimed the gun barrel at Kid, who tensed, but then relaxed as the Kishin Egg didn’t fire.
“My companions and I believe that you’re planning to offer up these souls to the Kishin, is that correct?” Kid asked, hoping to buy a little time for the missing girls to regroup with them.
The Kishin Egg chuckled. “I don’t see any point in not telling you. We’re going to try to kill each other either way, so I might as well give you my motivation. You got it in one. It gets more difficult to operate out here by the day, so I’m going to present the Kishin with these souls, he’ll surely reward me for that. He might even let me join him, but I won’t get my hopes up.” the Kishin Egg shrugged.
“Kishin? Are you referring to Ragnarok?” Kid asked. Hey, if he was answering questions for free, might as well take advantage.
The Kishin Egg looked almost insulted. “Him? He’s a pathetic weakling compared to the real deal. I’d expect someone who lives so close to know that.” he responded.
“Close? What are you talking about?” Kid asked, his eyes narrowing. Twilight and some of the DWMA faculty made up about 95% of the people who were supposed to know Asura’s location. Which begged the question of how this guy knew. Lord Death had thought it best to at least try to keep the number of people who knew the Kishin’s location as low as possible. Though it was heavily suspected that the Witches knew the Mad God’s location, it was likely they wouldn’t try anything, as the release of the Kishin wouldn’t particularly benefit anyone besides the Kishin.
The Kishin Egg tilted his head slightly. “You really don’t know, huh? Well, there isn’t much point telling you. This ship and I have places to see, things to do, souls to swallow. There are plenty of people in the world who’ll fall under the sway of the Kishin’s madness, seal or no seal. They’re just like this ship and myself, hungry for power, so consumed by our lust for it that earthly power will never satisfy. Personally, I think the reason so many Kishin Eggs are feral is that they’re so consumed by their hunger they can’t think of anything but devouring souls.” the Kishin Egg reached out and grabbed one of the souls, licking it. “Everyone who desires the kind of power that can finally satisfy that craving seeks the Kishin in their own way, whether that’s becoming one themselves like Ragnarok, or by reaching out to the original like me. These things are my ticket into my God’s good graces, and I won’t be handing them over to you!” the Kishin Egg yelled, suddenly firing the remainder of his gun’s loaded ammo at Kid.
Kid dodged backwards, to his right, then his left, shedding his cloak in the process as a smokescreen. “Hey Kid,” Patty began, a rare semi-serious expression on her face. “I’m gonna transform now.”
“No.” Kid denied. Patty gave him a confused look. A nervous sweat broke out on his face. “I can’t.”
*** Meanwhile With Twilight ***
“Okay, I’m back on the deck despite not having taken enough stairs to get back up here from the level I was at before falling through the floor. Clearly this place does not conform to Euclidean geometry, or the Kishin Egg has scary levels of control over this place. I’m not entirely sure which would be worse.” Twilight talked to herself. It was habit she had whenever she was alone, or thought she was alone.
“Oh no, there wasn’t supposed to be anybody from the DWMA here, and it’s that girl who fought me before and didn’t get very hurt. I don’t know how to deal with this.” Crona said as he and Ragnarok touched down on the ship’s deck.
The hulking figure of Ragnarok emerged from Crona’s body briefly. “I say we stick to the plan, except we add another soul to the menu!” Ragnarok turned itself into it’s weapon form, a broadsword which she couldn’t help but notice was about twice as thick as her own sword.
Crona’s grin reminded her a great deal of Arcana in her worst moments. “That sounds like a great idea.” he blocked the pistol fire from Twilight without much trouble as he rushed her. Twilight didn’t dare use any of the higher-tier magic she knew while she didn’t know her allies locations. Instead, she kept things at the first tier and Enfired weapons. Her buffing spells were perfectly fine though. For some reason, her debuffs were just sliding off of Crona. They’d done the same during her first encounter with him, but that had been due to the Witch being nearby… or so she thought. Maybe his prolonged contact with a Witch had made him resistant to magic? Spells that were meant to do damage directly had more effect, but Fire was the only one that he couldn’t ignore after a few seconds, so maybe that was only part of it. Even her affinity and his weakness working together weren’t enough to make first-tier spells particularly dangerous to him. Perhaps the snake circling his soul was actively repelling magic, in addition to the resistance Crona had built up through what was likely months of exposure at minimum, due to the Witch controlling him wanting her minion in decent fighting form.
She was left to engage him in close-combat, which was also not a fun place to be, as he seemed to have been practicing and/or eating a lot of souls since they last met. She was barely stronger than him, and she could feel the floorboards buckling underneath her from the strain of the contest. He, on the other hand, was a lot faster than she was. She had to dodge at least a dozen blood-based attacks within the first 5 minutes, and it was only getting worse. The problem with using physical attacks on him was that cutting attacks didn’t penetrate past his circulatory system, and the cut gave him a new opening to attack her with his blood. She wasn’t particularly keen on getting any more of that stuff in her system and even less so on dying.
What was worse, he seemed to learned his lesson from before and started dodging when she tried to hit him with Soul Force. She nearly lost a hand from his retaliatory strike just now. She could probably grow it back or reattach it if she was quick enough with a lot of healing magic, but that wasn’t the point here.
‘You know, you could always draw on the Black Blood in your body, this fight would probably be over in less than 5 minutes if you weren’t stuck barely fending off his attacks. That’s plenty of time to spare.’ Arcana said reasonably. The worst part was that she almost agreed. She, at the moment, was PRETTY sure that if she died, then Arcana would too, but there was a chance her dark half would manage to survive, and then there’d be a very smart, very dangerous soul-eating maniac running around in this world and others thanks to the spell she’d made to travel between them. Of course, if Arcana broke free thanks to the Black Blood, the result would be much the same. However, she’d prefer not to die if at all possible, and it was looking increasingly likely she’d have to use the Black Blood if she wanted to survive. Still…
‘Yeah, no deal. I’m not quite on the ropes enough to risk an omnicidal maniac being released to kill people and eat their souls.’ Twilight responded, barely avoiding being skewered. As Arcana could tell she was wavering, she felt a psychotic smirk spreading across her counterpart’s face. Ever since the Black Blood had entered her system, she’d been more sensitive to Arcana’s moods and thoughts, especially in combat, though her addition to the seal had mitigated it somewhat. She could only hope the others were doing better in general.
*** Meanwhile With Liz ***
“Ican’tIcan’tIcan’tIcan’tIcan’tIcan’tIcan’tIcan’t do this!” Liz borderline screamed as she hugged herself and tears of terror streamed down her face. She moved in a jerky fashion, as if she couldn’t decide whether to run like a scared little girl or be stealthy. “Patty? Kid? Where are you?” she asked, almost, but not quite whispering. “I hope the ghost didn’t eat them.” she muttered, starting to calm down. She’d seen Twilight fall, so she was slightly less surprised than she would have been normally when the same thing happened to her, and managed to avoid injuring herself when she landed.
“Kid can’t use Patty because he can’t hold her weapon form properly if he tries to make it symmetrical, and he’ll get a nasty nosebleed and pass out if he doesn’t make it symmetrical. I have to get back up there, and quickly.” She felt a surge of panic and started ranting in an attempt to drive it off. “I’m not the least bit scared of this stupid ghost ship, no way is this scary to me! I’m one of the legendary Thompson Sisters, the Devils of Brooklyn! Nobody wants to run into me in a dark alley! I’m not scared of anything!” she yelled at the top of her lungs. She was aware that if she didn’t believe herself, then anything that could hear her probably didn’t either.
“How did I end up on this freaky ship anyway?” she moaned. “We must have had a whole litter of black cats cross our paths to be unlucky enough to have the guy we mugged turn out to be a Grim Reaper! There’s literally only 2!” she sighed as her rant ran out of steam. “I don’t even know if I’m going the right way.”
“Yes,” a cheerful and youthful voice began. “this is the right way.”
“Gee thanks. That’s nice of you but how do you kn-” she paused and did a quick 180 degree turn. “Who said that?!” she demanded, only to find nothing but empty air behind her. “Okay… either I’m hearing things or…” she trailed off and slowly turned back around, only to freeze at the sight that greeted her.
“You’re doing well, just keep heading this way and you’ll meet up with your friends.” said a nearly transparent girl in a pink dress and red shoes with blond shoulder-length hair with a ribbon on the top holding it out of her face said. Where normal eyes would be on a living human, there was a pair of glowing blue orbs, the size of a marble each. These faded to a pair of dull and unhappy eyes
Liz closed her eyes and turned away. “Iwon’tlookIwon’tlookIwon’tlookIwon’tlookIwon’tlookIwon’tlookIwon’tlookIwon’tlookIwon’tlook! If I don’t look she’ll go away!” She shook her head vigorously as she said this.
“Come on, just a little further this way!” the ghost girl said cheerfully, apparently not caring about the panic Liz was in, and also suddenly right in front of her. Liz turned her head upward and stared at the ghost for a few seconds, then scrambled a good ten feet away. “I’m the spirit of a girl who was eaten by this ship. Don’t worry, I’m not going to hurt you.” the ghost attempted to calm Liz down. It didn’t work.
“Nope! Do I look stupid to you?! I’ve seen how this story goes and I’m not doing it! Ghosts are restless souls, and ‘restless’ almost always means bitter and angry! You’re mad because you got eaten, so now you’re going to eat me!” Liz accused.
“I have no reason to eat you, and I don’t think I could if I wanted to. Just follow me, and you’ll be able to get back to your friends.” the ghost countered.
“I can see through you! You just want me to let my guard down so I’ll be easier to eat!” Liz continued to panic.
“No, you just have to trust me.” the ghost replied patiently.
“I might have big boobs, but I’m all skin and bones, I’ll be all tough and stringy!” Liz responded, still panicking.
“Just trust me.” the ghost repeated, a flash of annoyance briefly visible on her face.
“I’ll taste terrible too! I promise!” Liz cried out.
The ghost’s right eye visibly twitched as she repeated “Just trust me.” clearly at the end of her patience.
As Liz continued to wail in terror, the ghost girl finally lost patience with her. “Alright, that’s it! Quit blubbering like a five-year-old and follow me, or I’ll scare you to death!” she yelled, causing the teenager to freeze, then slide to the ground with a groan.
“Yes ma’am, I’ll follow you anywhere.” she responded meekly.
“Good! Glad we got that straightened out. Now get moving!” The ghost started to float down the hallway in the direction she’d indicated was correct, with Liz crawling after her. “I don’t know what you’re so upset about, I didn’t even live long enough to get a body like that.” the ghost muttered irritably.
“Oh, right. Sorry for rubbing it in.” Liz apologized. ‘Patty, your big sis ain’t doing so well.’ Liz thought to herself.
*** With Kid and Patty ***
The Kishin Egg fired at them as they ran away, until they passed through the door to the room, at which point he chuckled. “Guess they weren’t paying attention earlier. Running away won’t do any good.”
Kid on the other hand, was worried about something else, which he considered much more important. ‘I specifically partnered with these two to avoid exactly this sort of situation! My father tried to pick out a good partner for me, but no! I had to have symmetry! Stubborn idiot! So when I found a pair of weapons that happened to be the exact same type and model, I picked them almost without thinking about it! I mean, come on! When was I going to have opportunity like that again, right?
Less than 0.1% of the population manifests the ability to turn into Demon Weapons. The likelihood of getting 2 that look exactly the same is abysmally low, so I took the chance! All I cared about… All I wanted… was symmetry! Is that really so much to ask? Now all my efforts have been completely and utterly wasted! DAAAAAMMMMIIIITTTTT!!!’ Kid ranted internally.
They nearly ran into a hail of bullets as the Kishin Egg emerged ahead of them. Said being smirked. “Weren’t you paying attention? If the ship is my body, what makes you think you’re safe anywhere inside it?” he asked rhetorically. He began to slowly emerge from the ceiling as he continued. “I’m honestly kind of disappointed. I was expecting a Grim Reaper to at least be strong enough to put up a fight. What, can’t fight without your friends?” he asked snidely.
“You haven’t seen anything yet! I don’t need a weapon to kill you and put a stop to your acts of evil.” Kid shot back.
“What you call evil, I call the food-chain. If I kill you here, then that means I was stronger, and I can do as I wish with your soul. If you’re stronger, you’ll use my soul to empower one of your weapons, yes? The only difference between those that serve Death and those that serve the Kishin is who they prey on. Death’s minions prey on those that serve the Kishin and Witches who cause chaos, while we prey on those unfortunate enough to cross paths with us. What makes you so much better?” the Kishin Egg asked.
“Some of what you said is valid, but there’s a distinct difference between carrying out judgement on those who treat the lives of others as meaningless beyond the benefit it provides them, and committing mass-murder to snack on your victims’ souls for a power boost. There is no problem with free will, but killing just because you want to is a line no one should be allowed to cross.” Kid rebuked the Kishin Egg
` “Oh? Where exactly is the line between what is allowed and what isn’t? Just because you say ‘here’ doesn’t mean everyone else will agree.” the Kishin Egg replied, eyes narrowing as he pointed his gun at Kid.
Kid shifted his stance slightly. “That doesn’t matter! Evil and Good must be in balance, too much of one or the other will lead to stagnation at best and rampant chaos at worst. Therefore, I will continue to fight until the world is in balance and then fight to keep it so. Balance is key, and while I’m fine with freedom in general, as a Grim Reaper I refuse to grant anyone the freedom to kill.” he responded.
His response was followed with gunfire and having to dodge spikes coming out of the walls that were made out of said walls as he and Patty ran.
*** With Twilight ***
Things were steadily getting worse for her. She’d gotten a bunch of cuts and while she’d left the small ones for a few seconds to minimize risk of getting more Black Blood in her system, she’d immediately healed any larger ones and she was absolutely sure the amount of Black Blood in her system was a lot higher than before. She was becoming convinced that using it was the only way she would be able to win. She was about to ask Arcana how to activate it, though she had an idea already, when Liz showed up from one of the entrances to the ship’s interior, but not the one they’d entered.
“Oh hey Liz, feel free to jump in any time!” Twilight called. Huh, what was with the ghost girl?
“Wha- Twilight?! Who’s that?” Liz asked a moment before Kid and Patty burst out of a sudden hole in the deck. Like all of it’s smaller brethren, this one closed immediately afterward.
“Normally I’d give you a dressing-down for making it so I couldn’t use Patty, but this isn’t the time. Liz! Patty! Transform!” Kid called, hands outstretched.
“Kay!” Patty responded, fist-pumping as usual before transforming.
“You say that like it’s my fault you’re neurotic.” Liz deadpanned before following suit.
“Hold it! We’re not done yet!” the Kishin Egg emerged on the stern-end of the boat.
Seeing him, Crona disengaged from Twilight by swinging so hard into her guard he knocked her into the opposite wall, then jumped over to the Kishin Egg and hit him with 3 slashes in what looked like a z-pattern turned 45 degrees. She got the distinct impression Crona had not been going all-out on her for some reason. Perhaps the witch he served wanted to test her or Crona. Regardless, she felt like this was about to go badly.
Crona flopped around bonelessly for a few seconds before saying “Ragnarok, Scream Resonance.” in a monotone voice. A pair of red lips appeared on the large black broadsword Crona wielded, and began to scream loudly enough to cause pain. Crona joined in as he embedded Ragnarok in the deck, which began to glow with a blue-green light.
“What? How is this possible?” Kid asked as the souls that had been stored inside the ship all began to come out and float above the deck.
“You know how I’m like a sponge for spiritual energy? I think this is a weaponized form of that.” Twilight replied. The air was too saturated from the spiritual energy of the Demon Sword and the souls he was bent on absorbing for a teleport. Besides which, she hadn’t quite recovered her breath from getting soundly beaten, so she didn’t think she’d make it. She started forward anyway.
“Wait, then-” Liz began as Ragnarok let out a final scream and the souls began to stream into the sword, which Crona raised aloft.
Twilight raised her gun to fire Enfired bullets with one hand and a Firaga with the other, but the sheer number of souls between her attacks and the sword, who absorbed energy from or otherwise sapped the attacks in desperate attempts to save themselves, killed their force.
The ghost girl from before briefly appeared next to Liz’s Weapon form. “Sorry stupid scaredy-cat, but I’ve got to go now. Goodbye.” she said sadly, before following the other souls into Ragnarok’s maw.
Liz gasped in horror as the ghost girl was the last of the souls to be devoured. “Bastard.” she growled, though it was unclear if she meant Crona, Ragnarok, or both.
For his/her part, Crona screamed briefly as Ragnarok’s Weapon form retreated back into his Meister, then burst out of Crona’s back.
“That’s Ragnarok’s true form.” Twilight informed them, backing away from the hulking figure made out of Black Blood.
“That? But there’s barely anything human about him besides general shape!” Liz responded.
Patty voiced her opinion more crudely. “You’re all icky and gross!” she laughed. She was… not wrong.
Ragnarok began to twist and shift in ways a solid object or living thing could and should not. The spike on his shoulders grew as long as a human’s arms, his arms twisted into wings, and his neck became out-and-out serpentine. “Remember that legend we came across earlier?” Kid asked.
“The Black Dragon?” Twilight asked, preemptively buffing everyone.
“Yeah. I think we’re dealing with a modern-day Black Dragon.” he replied.
“Hey, my blood is black you know.” Crona commented absently, as if he hadn’t just committed an atrocity against both humanity and nature.
“Yeah,” Twilight said, reloading her gun without taking her eyes of Crona by teleporting the old clip out and the new one in. “we noticed.” she deadpanned.
“I judge you.” Kid said, shifting his stance into one that looked odd, but was surprisingly solid for how silly it looked. “Reaper Combat Art. Mortal Sin Stance.” he paused for a moment as Ragnarok reverted to his Weapon form, which was noticeably bigger. “It’s time to die.” Kid said with narrowed eyes.
“I’m afraid… of everyone.” Crona began. “Hell isn’t some place you go, it’s hiding right here,” He tapped his forehead. “inside your head.” he was silent for a few seconds. “I need to learn to deal with people better, but to do that, I need to get enough power so no one can hurt me.” Crona continued, before staring directly at Kid, presumably because he’d issued that ultimatum. “If you get in my way, I’ll have to kill you.” he finished in a monotone.
“Oh will you now?” Kid asked, before blurring over to Crona and smashing a leg into his face, followed by firing Liz and Patty into his abdomen from point-blank range and forcing him into the air. Twilight teleported over and joined in, though her Enfired bullets were having less effect than before. Considering how many souls had just been absorbed by these two, that made sense.
“Power isn’t going to free you from fear, supreme domination won’t chase your inner demons away. Trust me when I say that getting stronger doesn’t help. If my life had gone a little differently, I might not be much different from you, so if anyone can relate to your predicament, I can. What you’re doing won’t solve anything though. I deal with fear by powering through it and the emotional support of my friends.” Twilight spoke over the barrage. Crona seemed more shocked at the number of hits he was taking than hurt, and a Firaga would hit them too at this range. “Cowering from it only makes it worse.” she finished as she kept up the barrage while Kid paused to leap into the air and land on Crona.
As he made an arc to the powerful Kishin Egg, Kid chimed in. “She’s right. Committing acts of evil like these will not help you.” he pushed Liz and Patty’s Weapon forms against Crona’s face. “Strengthen your spirit if you want to be free from fear.” he added as he fired another barrage on Crona, sending him crashing through at least one level of the ship. “Always keep good and evil in balance.” Kid finished as he landed on the main deck.
“Did we get him?” Liz asked.
“Doubt it, stay on guard.” Twilight answered. He didn’t really look like their attacks had bothered him much, and the Black Blood granted the user minor healing abilities, and that was ignoring the boost he’d gotten from all those souls. She wouldn’t be very surprised if he offered as much resistance as titanium at this point.
Kid tensed and then jumped away as his instincts screamed out in warning a moment before a blade of purple energy slashed through the space he’d occupied a moment before. “Screech Beta!” Crona cried out, before the dust he’d kicked up cleared to reveal he was flying with wings made of Black Blood.
“I wasn’t really expecting that to finish him after all the souls he just took, but it’s like he wasn’t hit with enough attacks to give a 3-star Meister pause.” Kid noted.
“You don’t understand. You aren’t me, so how can you understand what it’s like? Even the little one can’t understand.” Crona countered. His eyes slid to his left in a slow manner that made it feel like he had to force them to do so. “If the little one can’t understand, how can any of you? I don’t know why I’m surprised.” his eyes moved to the right. “If the little one doesn’t understand my feelings, how could members of the DWMA?” Crona asked no one.
“Hey sis, does that thing look like…?” Patty trailed off.
“Yeah, that’s what we used to be like before we met Kid.” Liz responded. “We loved the power we had from being born as Weapons, we walked around Brooklyn like we owned the place. No one ever seemed to notice that our lives weren’t all that great once you got past the fact that we could just take what we wanted from most people. No friends, no family, we only had each other.”
“Oh.” Patty was silent for a moment. “…Yeah, but actually I was asking if that looked like a boy or girl, ’cause I can’t tell.” Patty said, following a rare serious moment with her usual carefree attitude. “And you’re always telling me off for daydreaming.” she chuckled.
“Seriously? That’s what you want to know right now.” Liz asked. Patty focused on the weirdest things in the middle of a fight.
The Kishin Egg Crona’d cut to pieces twitched, then his head started hopping towards the bow of the ship. The damage dealt to the ship thus far began to slowly mend. “I’m not done yet, you fools! As long as this ship is intact, I can’t be killed!” he hopped onto a cannon near the middle of the group of them.
“I can’t believe he’s still alive.” Kid commented, bracing himself for incoming cannon-fire. Twilight was a bit more proactive and raised a small shield to cover them.
Crona responded with a dull “Oh no.” Since he didn’t tend to put much emotion into his voice, it was hard to tell if he was worried or not.
“I spent ages collecting all those souls! I’ll be taking yours by way of reimbursement! The Flying Dutchman won’t be letting some brat ruin all his hard work!” the Kishin Egg proclaimed. Huh, so that was his name.
“Ready…” the cannons moved into a line. “Aim…” the cannons adjusted their trajectories to hit Crona, the current object of the Dutchman’s ire. The Dutchman hopped away to the nearest railing then shouted “Fire at will!” The canons fired the first round in unison, but a cacophonous 2 minutes of irregular fire followed. She wasn’t sure how he was reloading, but she suspected he was using his influence over the ship to do so. When he finally stopped firing to see his handiwork (that or he just ran out of cannon balls, he’d definitely shot at least 50 at Crona, and nearly all of them had exploded) he chuckled.
However, when the dust cleared Twilight wasn’t even particularly drained by keeping the shield up, and she doubted Crona was harmed. “H-How are you still alive? That would’ve brought a ship down!” the Dutchman muttered.
“Damn you’re annoying.” Kid replied in, well, annoyance. He paused and turned to look behind him. Twilight followed suit, and decided to boost her barrier a bit further at the sight of Crona’s soul swelling. The red orb already dwarfed Stein’s, now it was approaching the size of a building. “Crap, I think he’s building up for an attack!” Kid commented.
“Probably.” Twilight agreed, putting pretty much everything into her shield. They were probably not going to be attacked directly, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t get hit by the blast so common in powerful soul-based attacks.
“I hate, hate, hate everyone.” Crona said, slowly raising Ragnarok. “That’s okay though. I can blow them all away with my screams.” He positioned Ragnarok at 9’o’clock. “I know how to deal with dead people.” he said. Ragnarok began to scream again, joined by Crona moments later. Crona rapidly spun Ragnarok above himself as black lightning briefly danced inside the orb of their linked souls, then the wings of blood and orb of spiritual power were absorbed by their owners, who gained a purple aura as they spun. “Screech…” Crona began, halting his spinning and pointing Ragnarok at the ship below him. “Alpha!” he shouted, sending a wave of purple energy with a mouth of blocky teeth at the ship. A thin line was carved across the deck, and for a moment it seemed like nothing happened. Then the ship began to thrash before a titanic blast of purple energy cut the ship in half. The Dutchman screamed, then his body split in half vertically.
“It looks like that did it for the Dutchman. That sword is strong.” Kid observed.
“Less being impressed, more leaving!” Twilight reclaimed her power from the shield, ripped up some floorboards with telekinesis, fashioned them into a raft, then teleported the group and raft some distance away from the ship in the span of 10 seconds. Desperation was a good motivater.
“Even with how long he had to charge first, you have to admit it’s impressive that he destroyed that ship in one shot.” Kid commented.
“Yes, but he’s getting away!” Twilight pointed to Crona, who was flying away as the ship sank.
“It’s over now, Reaper boy.” Crona said as the bloody wings flew him overhead.
“Oh no you don’t! Beelzebub!” A small sphere of black energy appeared in Kid’s hand, which he threw ahead of him and hopped on as it resolved itself into a skateboard with jets coming out of the bottom which allowed flight.
Twilight left one of her charms to mark the raft’s location, then followed him by teleporting up and towards Crona. She’d discovered that teleporting upside-down didn’t change the direction of her momentum relative to herself, so she could let gravity kill her momentum by teleporting into a different orientation and having gravity drain the momentum it had been giving her not a moment beforehand. Of course, fighting upside-down took some getting used to and her aim suffered a bit, but she could join in on aerial battles at least for a little while. Being able to renew the buffs on Kid, Liz, and Patty was a nice bonus too.
“What did the Dutchman mean? Did he know about Asura’s location? The number of people who don’t report to my father and know about that should be in the single digits! How did he know? Is someone feeding information to Kishin Eggs?” Kid wondered and worried aloud, but put it aside and started firing at the Demon Sword in hopes bringing him down. Twilight joined in intermittently, having to pause to teleport to a different spot to avoid plunging into the ocean or falling too far behind.
“Listen up Crona!” Ragnarok began authoritatively. “If those two catch up, you won’t be getting any dinner tonight!” he threatened.
“Hey, no fair! You’re the one flying, and I can’t lose any more weight, I don’t know how to deal with being any skinnier than I already am!” Crona protested.
“Just give up!” Kid called. They kept landing hits, but Crona seemed fairly unbothered by them beyond cries of pain. Maybe they could wear him down gradually, but it didn’t seem like they were doing much beyond being an inconvenience.
“Dammit!” Ragnarok cried when he noticed the Meisters were gaining on them. Of course, Ragnarok was probably going to have trouble maintaining solidity if he took many more soul-based attacks, and then Crona would be vulnerable to physical strikes. That was probably Ragnarok’s concern.
They continued to fire on the pair of fugitives for about a minute, then the fog began to lift just as they neared the distance where they could launch physical attacks on their targets. “Hm, it looks like Nidhogg was causing the fog this whole time.” Kid noted. With the ship destroyed, the fog was rapidly dispersing.
“Nice to see the sun again.” Twilight commented from the apex of one of her teleport-precipitated falls.
“We can sunbathe later!” Liz reprimanded them.
Kid gasped then stopped. Twilight conjured a small piece of wood to sit on as she joined him. “What is it? Do you see something?” she asked him.
“Yes! It’s amazing!” Kid responded, staring in awe.
“Well, what is it?” Liz asked impatiently.
“The sky! Look at the clouds! They way they’re flowing towards the sun! They’re perfectly symmetrical!” he announced to the world.
“…I cannot believe he stopped in the middle of a chase over this.” Twilight deadpanned. It was nice, but it wasn’t that nice.
“Seriously? You wackjob.” Liz accused.
“This is truly beautiful! Oh how I love you symmetry!” Kid shouted before racing off in the direction of the sun.
“No wait! Kid! We need to- and… he’s gone. Oh look at that, Crona and Ragnarok got away while we were distracted.” She cupped her hands to her mouth and shouted “Fine! I’ll head back ahead of you guys!” A thought occurred to her and she used her charm to grab the raft she’d made earlier with a teleport. As she’d expected, the Dutchman was on it. The raft was made of his ship after all. It made sense. She smashed a Soul Force into each section of his body, which was apparently too much for him with how much damage his ship had taken, causing him to dissolve into his soul, which she absorbed. “Well, at least we managed to complete the mission we were assigned, but the Demon Sword is getting dangerously powerful.” she said as she lay down to rest for a couple minutes and let her magic recover a bit.
“Still, I don’t like the idea that we might have a leak. I’ll have to ask Lord Death about it when I get back.” She sat up and started rowing with a pair of conjured oars. She suspected the others hadn’t used Beelzebub before because there wasn’t room for her to ride with them. She grabbed a Potion and gulped it down so she had enough energy to wreathe the oars in magical energy to increase the amount of push they gave her. She didn’t have the kind of power to teleport to the nearest landmass with an airport or harbor that wasn’t deserted, and she was confident that the trio could take care of themselves. Now to get back to the DWMA.